By Army Sgt. Aaron LeBlanc
Louisiana National Guard
WASHINGTON, June 22, 2011 – The Louisiana National Guard-led task force providing humanitarian relief to Haiti officially ended its two-month mission in a small ceremony here today.
Task Force Bon Voizen — translated “good neighbor” — provided medical, dental and veterinary care to more than 2,100 animals and 32,000 people. Its engineers built a three-room school, two medical clinics and restroom facilities.
This year’s exercise marked the second time the Louisiana National Guard was called upon to lead humanitarian relief efforts in Haiti since the January 2010 earthquake.
More than 2,300 service members from three countries came together in the Artibonite department, a rural area 70 miles northwest of here.
Army Col. Kenneth Donnelly, the task force commander, called the mission a life-changing experience, and praised the efforts of the troops who deployed here to work in austere conditions.
“The soldiers, airmen and Marines of the task force are regular people, with regular jobs back in their hometowns and duty stations. They are just like you and me, willing to do what it takes to make the world a better place,” Donnelly said. “They came to give instead of take. They came to act instead of talk.
“I measure their success, not by the structures they built or the number of patients they treated, but rather by the lives they touched,” he added.
Support for the task force came from National Guard troops from several states including Louisiana, New York, Massachusetts, Georgia, Florida and North Dakota. The Army Reserve provided medical staff and engineers. The active-duty Army supplied communications troops, the Air Force provided meteorologists and the Marine Corps provided civil affairs specialists.
The task force also was supported by physicians from the Colombian and Canadian armies and engineers from the Belize Defence Force. Japanese engineers also helped to build the school, and U.N. peacekeeping forces from Argentina provided security at task force medical and dental clinics.
Lisa Samson, director of civil military operations for U.S. Southern Command, was present at the closing ceremony and thanked the task force for taking the opportunity to “improve what we’re doing here in Haiti.”
“The relationships and partnerships formed have been immense ever since the earthquake and have forged a bond that we can’t break,” she said. “The work the task force has done here is evident … the clinics and the school that you built are going to have a lasting and enduring impression. The important piece now is how to make it a sustainable type of investment.”